FBI thwarts alleged China’s cyberattacks on US infrastructure

The FBI director told a US congressional committee that China’s “Volt Typhoon” hackers had planted malware on hundreds of routers linked to US vital assets, but the US had managed to disrupt their cyberattack.

According to the FBI, the US has successfully disrupted the cyberattacks of a Chinese group backed by the State that aimed at vital public infrastructure such as pipelines and the power grid.

The FBI’s director informed legislators that they had launched an operation to stop the “Volt Typhoon” group.

He claimed that the group breached hundreds of old routers in offices to access information on US assets.

The Chinese government has not yet commented on the allegations.

However, it has previously rejected claims of state-sponsored cyber warfare against other nations. It has also accused the US of being “the world’s biggest hacking empire and global cyber thief” in the past.

The FBI’s director said on Wednesday to a US congressional committee that China was intentionally preparing to damage key US infrastructure systems in case of a hostile confrontation.

The US first became aware of the “Volt Typhoon” group’s hacking activities last May, after Microsoft alerted that the group had targeted several public assets including government email accounts.

The FBI says the group aimed at a wide range of the country’s critical infrastructure such as water treatment systems, the power grid, transportation systems, oil and gas pipelines and telecommunication networks.

He said the group supported by the Chinese state had managed to plant malware and take control of hundreds of old and outdated routers linked to those infrastructure assets.

He told the US congressional committee on US-China competition that the “Volt Typhoon” malware allowed China to conceal, among other things, pre-operational reconnaissance and network exploitation against critical infrastructure.

He said this indicated the hackers were ready to “create chaos and cause real-world harm to American citizens and communities.”

He added that China was not only focused on political or military targets, but on “if and when” they decided to strike.

US cyber security experts have previously warned that China is targeting infrastructure to potentially disrupt communications in case of a conflict.

The chairman of the Select Committee on Competition Between the US and China said this was “the cyberspace equivalent of placing bombs on American bridges and power plants” at Wednesday’s hearing.

Beijing has criticised the committee, which denies all accusations of cybercrime. The Chinese government has urged the committee to “discard their ideological bias and zero-sum Cold War mentality.”

But the FBI’s director detailed Beijing’s resources for cyber warfare and said China’s hacking programme was bigger “than every other major nation combined.”

He also said the FBI’s cyber agents were outnumbered by their Chinese counterparts by 50 to 1.

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